New flu vaccine announced for winter season

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday announced the new formulation of the 2012-2013 seasonal flu season based on strains currently circulating worldwide but not yet in this country. While the immunization will contain the same H1N1 “swine flu” strain from the previous two years, it also contains two new strains for viruses that we have no protection against.

The 2011 flu vaccine was identical to the one produced for 2010, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advised everyone to get their annual vaccination since immunization can wane over time.

By “everyone,” the government means all individuals over six months of age, but those with severe egg allergies or who have had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccination shouldn’t receive the shot, according to the CDC.

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Pregnant women, young children, and seniors, however, should make an extra effort to get immunized since they have a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications from the flu.

About 200,000 hospitalizations due to flu-related complications occur every year, and deaths from the virus range from 3,000 a year to 49,000 a year depending on the severity of the circulating strains.

“The best way to prevent influenza is by getting vaccinated each year,” said Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “It is especially important to get vaccinated this year because two of the three virus strains used in this season’s influenza vaccines differ from the strains included in last year’s vaccines.”

That said, there’s still the possibility that other virus strains may be circulating, so sometimes the vaccine isn’t a perfect match. Also, the vaccine doesn’t work in everyone; those who are sick with a fever, says the CDC, should avoid getting immunized until they’re well to increase the efficacy of the vaccine.

Clinics and doctors’ office throughout the state should start offering the vaccine beginning in early fall. The mylocalclinic.com website will have a list of where to get a vaccine.